Prenatal care or antenatal care is the care of the pregnant mother and the baby inside her.
Pregnancy is a momentous occasion in a woman’s life. The mother will experience many physical and mental changes and these can be quite overwhelming, especially for a first time mother. That is why advice and guidance from an experienced doctor (gynecologist-obstetrician) is very important at every stage. The doctor will help you out with Ultrasound scans, vaccines, nutritional advice and preparation for delivery. All this care constitutes Prenatal Care.
Proper prenatal care or Ante-partum care is a must to optimize the chances of having a healthy baby.
What to Expect in the first prenatal visit?
The mother’s initial visit with the doctor will most likely be the longest one. Following points will be covered in the medical history.
- Menstrual History and Past obstetric history
- Present and Past medical history- Chronic illnesses (Diabetes, Hypertension, Thyroid problems or any major illness)
- Dietary history
- Habits-Smoking, Alcohol, Recreational drugs etc.
- Family history- For genetically transmitted diseases like Hemophilia or Cystic fibrosis
A thorough physical examination will be done and a few tests may be advised.
What will be the nature of further prenatal check-ups?
Future check-ups will consist of routinely checking mother’s weight, blood pressure, and urine; and answering her questions. Some tests may be needed to be done.
After the 12th week of pregnancy, the doctor will also start listening for a fetal heartbeat. Beginning at about the halfway point, the doctor will also start measuring mother’s stomach to estimate how much her baby has grown. Towards the end of the pregnancy, the doctor will begin to feel mother’s abdomen in order to determine the baby’s position.
The frequency of prenatal visits will change throughout pregnancy. Usual timetable is:
Till 28 weeks- Once a month visit.
From 28- 36 weeks- Every fortnight (15 days).
From the 36th week until the birth- Every week.
If mother has a chronic medical condition or has “high-risk” pregnancy, the visits may be scheduled more often. It is important to go to all of the prenatal check-ups to ensure that mother and the baby receive the best possible care.
What is the importance of Ultrasound scans in pregnancy?
Mother’s first USG scan should ideally be scheduled at the 6th gestational week. This is to view the nature and site of the gestational sac, number of gestations to confirm fetal viability, and to rule out an ectopic pregnancy.
Another scan between 11-12 weeks is called a nuchal translucency scan. It is essentially a screening test for Down’s syndrome.
Anomaly ultrasound is performed at 19-21 weeks for a detailed scan to rule out congenital malformations.
Third trimester screening is for fetal wellbeing.
What should be the food and nutrition during pregnancy?
It is important for an expectant mother to eat a healthy diet. Balanced, varied, home-cooked diet as per the cultural norms is good enough. If mother has a specific health problem (e.g. diabetes, high blood pressure or body swelling) , then there may be specific diets advised.
Dangerous bacteria or parasites may contaminate food. To avoid these hazards, hygiene rules should be strictly adhered to: carefully wash fruits and raw vegetables; over-cook remainders, meat and processed meat.
Calcium and iron are particularly needed by the rapidly growing fetus. Folic acid helps prevent fetal brain and spinal cord disorders. Vitamin D and other vitamins are important for maternal and fetal wellbeing. So supplements of Calcium, Iron or Vitamins are commonly prescribed.
Which vaccines are important in pregnancy?
Influenza vaccine (Flu-vaccine) during influenza season andTdap (Tetanus toxoid, reduced diphtheria toxoid and pertussis or whooping cough toxoid) are commonly advised, and vaccines like Hepatitis B and Hepatitis A are sometimes advised.
Prenatal Care Video
Here is a nice video to understand the prenatal care.